Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Crazy Legs

Duathlon in the Park Series May 2010
....... I train? On reflection I think in the past two years I've TRIED to train but failed.

Right now I am training f'ing hard. Harder than I've trained any winter season.

Is it wrong to admit that I'd rather be better than mid-pack at races?

Have I mentioned I'll be 40 before the next race season starts? My time of improving from season to season is rapidly running out.

I was having this conversation today about the connection between a skating history in childhood and cycling. I used to skate as a kid. I did recreational figure skating until I was 12. Nothing spectacularly high level. My parents didn't want to put out the huge cash for club skating.

Then I switched to basketball and school sports. Yes I know I'm 5'3" -- but I started playing basketball in grade 8 and the assumption was that I would still grow taller. I didn't, but everyone else around me did. I was a decent basketball player. Very agile.  An excellent free throw shooter and ball handler. But by a certain age, my lack of growth caught up to me and I spent a lot of time on the bench. Actually there was a performance anxiety thing too. I panicked in real games when the ball came my way and got called for travelling a lot. If I was relaxed in a game I was fine. But usually I wasn't relaxed and my legs stuttered and I didn't even know it. It earned me a nickname though.

Crazy Legs.

I hated that nickname.

I developed leg muscles early in life because of skating, though, and I guess I carried the ability to re-develop those muscles into adulthood because the minute I got on a bike, at the ripe old age of 37, something clicked.

So, in case you care, here is my hot and cold romance with the notion we call "Training."

I did OK at sprint distance triathlon, the summer of 2008, with zero training in swimming or biking. I had trained all winter for the Manitoba Half Marathon and ran my best time to date (1:54:15). My best triathlon result that summer was coming 5/20 in my age group in Riding Mountain. If I could do that well on essentially NO formal training, I wondered what would happen if I trained.

I joined a triathlon club the following fall and probably biked about 3 times per week and ran about 3x per week and tried to swim 2x per week but fell off the wagon by January or so and probably swam once a month, if that. It was a  huge jump in training volume for me as I tried to keep up with the Tribalistic "Jones's" and I paid for it in IT band problems, night sweats, weight gain, and calf troubles -- perpetual calf troubles. I was also dating someone who lived to race. Some of those races I did too, some of them I did despite not wanting to do them, and some of them I was saved from doing by having the kids.

Sometimes kids are a fantastic excuse to not show up.

Physio and Athletic Therapy were my friends that  fall, winter and spring. My triathlon performance that summer (2009) was not much different than the summer before, which makes me walking evidence that overtraining is counterproductive.

My biking was getting better though.  Still not where I thought I could be, and by this point I knew I was on the wrong sized bike which I was also sure was not helping.

I signed up for the Calgary 70.3 because that race-hungry boyfriend at the time signed up for it. Again I was trying to keep up when I wasn't ready, but I kinda felt like I was supposed to try. Two weeks later I was done with the guy and stuck with a race entry.

I packed up house. I moved. I found another guy. I bought a bike. You know the story.

I biked maybe twice a week last winter. Skied a bit because the new guy was a skier. Swam rarely, once again peaking in November and falling off the wagon. Peaking at swimming in November does nothing to help your triathlon race in June.

I focused on running last winter, thinking that if I could train for a half marathon in the winter and spring and, during the summer, just maintain that fitness until August 1st, that would help allow me to focus on the bike when the snow melted and be ready in time for Calgary.

But the calf problems came back sometime after Christmas. Same thing. Cramping so bad and painful that running was impossible. My calves would be hard as rocks. The tightness creeped slowly down the back of both my legs and then settled in my calves. So I would walk and then run and walk and then run and eventually it would relieve itself and I could run steadily and normally but that usually took a painful half hour to get there.

Because AT worked the first time around, I acted quickly and went back as soon as it started up. A few weeks of running very very slowly and taking very long warm up periods, had me ready for Police Half at the beginning of May, at least. But I longed for the days when I could run a 9 minute mile comfortably. At that time, a 10 minute mile felt hard. I feel maxed out of breath a whole lot quicker when running in pain. I ran 2:00:15 at Police this year.

And Athletic therapy has always seemed to work. The guy I see is a bit of a sadistic bastard... (his words, not mine) but it works. And it hurts like hell. I'm not the best at consistently doing those little stability exercises they give you, but I try. But the timing of AT working has always been around spring -- just as we hit the road and outdoor bike training begins.

But biking feels good. Biking never seems to feel bad. It felt even better once I had bought myself a nice little package of speed in the form of the Madone. And I was finally on a bike that actually fit me.

The Calgary training plan came out of a book. The  plan was to pop into the half ironman training schedule at the finish of Police Half, and by that point, I was already far advanced of where the training plan had me situated in both running and biking (still wasn't swimming). And I was having trouble fitting the book's plan to my crazy life. So the plan kinda fell by the wayside and I did my own thing. So the Calgary training ended up being bike bike bike, a couple runs a week, a long run every second week, and swim when the mood struck and only in a lake. No more chlorine, thank you.

Thankfully, the calves were fine through the Calgary training and through the whole Calgary race. I did 3 Olympic Triathlons this summer prior to Calgary and came in 3rd in my age group in each one. I paid for the poor run training and inability to do speed work though. I think that in 2/3 of those races, I was in first place in my age group after the bike. Lost it on the run -- and never by a close margin either.

So training hasn't gone so well for me the last couple of years and I've never really focused on bike training before. It's hard to train for 3 sports, single parent, work full time -- even if I can do my workout in the middle of the day during work hours. I'm trying to be realistic now. One sport it is. My favourite one, of course.

I might do one or two triathlons this summer but there will be no swim training -- 6 AM dips in the cold pool in the middle of winter don't agree with my psyche. And I HATE doing 100s of meters of IM which is what Master's swimming forces me to do. What the hell do I need to do Fly for? Really. The occasional swim once the water opens up will be enough.

I hired Pat Peacock our head coach to train me this winter to bike better. I invested in a VO2 max test at U of M in November to get a baseline. I did that on my own because I've always wanted to try. It turned out OK, and believe me, my several cyclocross races in the weeks prior, helped that.

So now I'm on the trainer 5-6 times a week for 1-1.5 hours. I've been pretty well behaved up to this point in following "the plan" but this is only the beginning. I'm still enthusiastic. But I tend to follow plans pretty well. A friend offered to make me a plan in 2007 for my first half marathon. It was my first experience with formalized plans. It was combo running and strength training. I think I did nearly every run on that plan and followed it to the letter.

And yes Pat's training is the kind of training where I keep my heart rate in zones and time my intervals. Is that so wrong?  I've had a problem of only having one speed all this year and that's a problem I'm trying to break. If I have to use a heart rate monitor to keep me well behaved, I'll do it.

I intended to run too on this plan. Not a lot of running but enough to maintain what I have. I didn't want to burn myself out on a bike by only biking. Since the summer, running has actually felt OK. It has been a sigh of relief to run pain free for the last six months. I felt like I was getting faster, not nearly back to where I was 3 years ago, but the potential was there.

But within two weeks of being back on the indoor trainer I was not able to run. I'm always in denial when it starts up again. I had vague lower calf pains for a very short period of time on my first training run on the treadmill two weeks ago. I blamed it on Supercross actually -- pedalling with one leg in places and paddling the ground with the other leg in other spots. That's what caused my tightened calves, said my denying brain. But I finished the run easily that day. And I kinda liked it.

I did an HHH run, three days later, through deepish fresh snow that left my calves cramping and forced me to walk part of the trail. Not even the beer helped. I blamed it on the uneven running surface.

I did my scheduled treadmill run four days after that and it was a waste of time. After 40 minutes of walk-running, I aborted the run figuring I'd suffered long enough. The calf problem is back. Can't deny it now.

I don't know what it is about this time of the year that kills my run. Is it being on a trainer? It is 100% equal and bilateral. My calves are hard as rocks and the lack of range of motion and foot flexibility in my lower legs leaves me feeling like I'm running on two stumps.

What's different about being on a trainer than being on the road? I have theories. Lack of upper body stability required to maintain balance, for one, I think that is part of it. I think it ends up changing my pedal stroke too perhaps? I don't know.

It could quite possibly also just be just a personal glitch I have in my anatomic make-up. I may just not be built to run and bike at the same time.

Anyways this is the 3rd winter training season where running has been hampered by this problem so I'm sucking it up and hitting the sports medicine clinic. I hate that idea too but I feel I have no other choice.  Being a nurse, I have enough experience to know that what it boils down to is that doctors and the medical model have basically three solutions to problems.

A) Drug it.
B) Let's do Surgery.
C) Tell you to "Suck it up Princess" and live with it.

So I am going as a skeptic, but I'm going.


Carly said...

After 10 years of competitive figure skating in my younger days I second your comment about skater legs --> cycling.
I think it's awesome that you are having Pat help you out! If you need a good physio, I know a few...!

Lisa said...

Ice Donkey 2011!! One more thing to not train for !!!!!! ;0)

Kim said...

Thanks Carly.. I'll let you know how it al pans out.

Lisa, absolutely! I'll be ready for the bike and the ski portions anyhow but all my bike training won't make a difference when we have to hold back for SUDS-ie ;-)

Anonymous said...

5-6 days a week on the trainer??? ALREADY???

Please don't burn out, you seem like you will be a fun person to have around the cycling community!

And my knee only bugs me when I ride the trainer.. doesn't on rollers... which means Trainers are EVIL!!

Kim said...

Thanks Greg, that's very sweet of you to say... ask me in February about burnout. I'm doing nothing else right now and I suppose this is a step backwards in workout time from where I was prior to snow and cold. But since I can't run and I won't swim and skiing is just an occasional thing.... sucky trainer it is....... I also have a sit-on-my-fat-ass-all-day kinda job.

I was told by my "bicycle benefactor" what you do for a living and what your "training patterns" are when the weather is nice. (He says you kick his butt quite handily may I add -- and given I have him on a very tall pedestal, in my imagination that's a hard thing to do lol I've never ridden with him btw).

That's equally crazy may I add. You must spend several hours a day walking on top of "training"?

In person I can be reserved and quiet (my friends are laughing now).... no, believe it or not, I hold back less... Is that possible?

Anonymous said...

I don't walk much.. I run.. or so I'm told.

So I guess you can see what University did for my job prospects! Not complaining, I like it.. except today maybe.

And I only write to get the crazy outta my head.

Kim said...

Yes, ditto... re: writing to get out the crazies.